Fritz Koenig, sculptor of World Trade Center sphere, dies

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Artist Fritz Koenig stands next to his sculpture "The Sphere" after a dedication ceremony Monday, March 11, 2002 in New York's Battery Park.  (AP)

BERLIN (AP) — Fritz Koenig, a German sculptor whose work "The Sphere" became a symbol of resilience after the 9/11 attacks in New York, has died. He was 92.

Koenig, a well-known artist thanks to his distinctive large statues and sculptures, created the ball-shaped bronze over a four-year period starting in 1967.

Originally called "Grosse Kugelkaryatide N.Y.," the 25-foot- (7.7 meter) -high sculpture stood at the foot of the World Trade Center from 1971 until Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaida hijackers flew airliners into the twin towers.

It was recovered from the rubble — heavily dented but structurally intact — and was moved to Battery Park, where it now stands alongside an eternal flame dedicated to the people who died. A plaque notes that the sculpture was conceived as a symbol of world peace.

Koenig said it was a miracle that "The Sphere" had survived, noting at the time: "It was a sculpture, now it's a memorial."

The artist was born in the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg in 1924. After serving in the German army during World War II, Koenig studied at the Munich Academy of Fine Art. He participated in the 1958 Venice Biennale and had his first show in the United States at New York's Staempfli Gallery in 1961.

After the 1972 attack on the Munich Olympics, Koenig created a granite beam to commemorate the 11 Israeli team members and a German police officer who were killed. Another of his works stands prominently as a memorial to the people murdered by the Nazis at the former Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.

Many of his pieces can be found at the Sculpture Museum in Landsberg .

The dpa news agency reported that Koenig died late Wednesday at his home in Altdorf, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Munich. His death was confirmed Thursday by Bavaria state's Ministry of Culture.